Recently I’ve been listening to Matthew Smith’s new CD Watch the Rising Day. Matthew has been contributing to the contemporary hymn-based music of Indelible Grace for years, but has also produced a few of his own albums. He asked me to preview his new CD which I was more than happy to do.
Like Indelible Grace, all the songs on Watch the Rising Day are drawn from hymn texts, although not ones you’d necessarily be familiar with. As I’ve read through a few words-only hymnals I’ve been amazed at the wealth that still remains to be explored in old hymn lyrics. Matthew is seeking to mine those treasures and modernize the settings.
Drawing from hymns inevitably leads to lyrics that stand out from much contemporary lyric writing. The songs on Watch the Rising Day touch on the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ (Redeemed, Restored, Forgiven), the challenges of living a victorious Christian life (The War), rejecting the world’s allurement (I Have Seen the Lord), suffering (At Eve It Shall be Light),thoughts for dying well (Goodnight), and more.
Modernizing hymns can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on the lyrics. These are great:
As by the light of opening day the stars are all concealed
So earthly pleasures fade away when Jesus is revealed (I Have Seen the Lord)
Dear Lord receive the glory of each recovered soul
Oh who can tell the story of love that made us whole?
Not our, not ours, the merit– be Yours alone the praise
And ours a thankful spirit to serve You all our days (Redeemed, Restored, Forgiven)
On the other hand, these were a little distracting:
“With your meek Spirit arm our breast”
“Hands and feet with nails through bored”
“They said the threats were coward bluster”
But those were minor distractions. Overall, the album is filled with lyrics that encourage, instruct, and impart faith to the listener/singer. I so respect what Matthew and the folks from Indelible Grace have been doing the past ten years in revitalizing hymns texts.
Musically, the album was very enjoyable, even though it didn’t break new ground in terms of arranging and sounds. But there are few albums that do. Matthew has a strong voice, and it’s well suited to the mostly acoustic and elecrtric guitar driven tracks. WTRD contains songs both for congregational worship and personal edification. My favorites for a church setting are I Need Thee Today (acknowledging our need for Christ in everything), Redeemed, Restored, Forgiven (celebrating our salvation in Christ), Greater Than Our Hearts (assurance of forgiveness), and Lord Jesus, Comfort Me (great communion meditation).
The Deluxe edition contains four extra tracks – All Must Be Well, In Christ Alone (a beautiful and simple acoustic version with a mandolin solo), On Jordan’s Stormy Banks I Stand, and a re-mix of You Are the Light. My favorite song on the album on the album happens to be All Must Be Well. It’s a simple and singable 6/8 song that speaks faith into our hearts. The lyrics:
Through the love of God our Savior, all will be well
Free and changeless is His favor, all is well
Precious is the blood that healed us
Perfect is the grace that sealed us
Strong the hand stretched forth to shield us
All must be well
Though we pass through tribulation, all will be well
Ours is such a full salvation, all is well
Happy still in God confiding
Fruitful if in Christ abiding
Steadfast through the Spirit’s guiding
All must be well
We expect a bright tomorrow; all will be well
Faith can sing through days of sorrow, all is well
On our Father’s love relying
Jesus every need supplying
Yes in living or in dying
All must be well
Written by Matthew S. Smith ©2007 Detuned Radio Music
Based in part on a hymn text by Mary Bowly Peters
You can listen to it here:
The album will start shipping around August 23, but pre-orders have started here. If you order one now you’ll receive an immediate full download of the record. The entire record is streaming for free there as well.
Matthew has made it possible for you to get 25% off the Deluxe edition. Just use the code “Bob”. Creative, I know. You can also get 10% off the Limited Edition Vinyl LP + Download. Use the code “BobLP”. The codes expire Aug. 23.